Megapixels

Less is More, more or less.
A closer look at megapixels.

Let’s take a look at megapixels.
I have heard too many people refer to their camera by the number of megapixels it produces. Maybe they mention its brand, too. Maybe not. Some of them actually refer to their cellular phone. It’s a known fact that the megapixel count of a camera is what makes it different, or better than other cameras. The more megapixels a camera has, the better the quality of the photos it creates, the richer the colors, the better the dynamic range, the clearer the subjects.

Truly, this is not accurate. Actually, It’s not even in the vicinity of being true.

It is a fact that just one pixel, or ten, or a thousand is hardly enough for any type of photography. It’s also a fact that in order to print a picture to fit the entire wall of your house you need many megapixels. However, neither of those cases is what you want from your camera. I will take an educated, statistical guess that most of your photos end up being viewed on-screen, whether at home, by email, on web albums or shared in any other way (I will not mention the obvious). On top of that, some of your better work, is indeed printed, but only to a limit of a certain size of paper. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that the largest print you’ll want to make out of a photo created by your compact camera, is 12″x16″. If you’re going for prints larger than that, you’ll probably want the quality (but not necessarily more megapixels) of a DSLR.

Now let’s break down the details of that large print you’re about to create.
300 ppi (pixels per inch) is considered top-notch printing, whereas 100 ppi is the bare acceptable minimum. If you print your 12″x16″ print at above the minimum ppi, let’s say 150 ppi (totally acceptable), you will need 1800×2400 pixels. That’s just over 4 megapixels. If you print at 200 ppi, you’ll need about 9 megapixels.
Accordingly, in the past two years only a handful of cameras were manufactured with less than 9 megapixels. Those few had 8 megapixels (not less), and they were manufactured no later than two years ago. So you see, with today’s 10, 12 and 14 megapixel monsters, you have nothing to worry about in the megapixel department (you can also check out these ppi calculations).

Ah, but wait. Not all is rosy. You might want all those pixels in your pocket-sized camera in order to crop a face out of a crowd, or your kid from a class photo, isn’t that so? That’s true, but there’s another thing to think about and that’s the size of each pixel of your camera’s sensor. In order to create a colorful, contrasty, accurate photo, each pixel needs to gather information about the light that hits it. If 14 million pixels are packed into a sensor which is less than 0.05 square inch as in most compact cameras, each pixel would be very, very small. This means that it is hit by a small amount of light and that means it’s harder for it to gather and pass information. Camera manufacturers have truly outdid themselves in creating cameras with such small sensors, packed with so many pixels, giving the output that they are capable of giving.
However, it is also an undisputed fact, that given the same technology – the larger the pixel size, the better the image quality. That doesn’t mean that an old camera with 3 megapixels is better than today’s compacts, but rather that when comparing cameras today, a larger pixel size is more desirable than a larger pixel count.

 

-eyalg

 

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